My Current Experiments

Today’s Lesson: Try, try, and try again.

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I have written before about the importance of living “an experimental life“. I think one of the best things we can do to experience the most life has to offer is to be curious and experiment. You can experiment with big stuff or easy stuff. It doesn’t matter. The point is to change your life around, turn it upside down now and then, and find out who you really are. You might find what is necessary in your life by distilling what is unnecessary. I thought you might like to know 3 of my current life experiments, just for fun. I have a lot of experiments going on but here are three that revolve around better sleep (something many of us struggle with):

 

1. Giving up caffeine. I still have mixed feelings about this one but I can definitely say there have been advantages. I think this is only week three but I have had no lattes (my daily habit for the last 6 years or so), no soda, no caffeinated teas. I drink water, herbal teas, mineral water, and sometimes club soda, kombucha, or tonic water.

So far, I have lost two pounds over three weeks (nothing to do with the caffeine, I know, but the sugar in the lattes) and I am sleeping a little better, but to be honest, I have not noticed a dramatic difference. Still, a little better is still better. I have slightly more energy throughout the day (but again, probably not the caffeine so much as the missing sugar crash). Stupid Starbucks. I’ll stay caffeine free indefinitely but the results, I would say, are out so far on this one.

2. No screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, and no screens in the bedroom. This has been a tough one. Not only do I typically check my social media and email before bed, but also it is how I like to wind down. Nicole and I will snuggle up and watch an episode of something on Netflix or some YouTube videos right before bed. However, all leading research in the field points to screen time as one of the biggest culprits for sleepless nights, throwing off our circadian rhythm. Stupid evolution. We have also banned all other non-sleep activities (except adult play-time) from the bedroom.

We have a fun fill-in, though. We sit across from each other on the sofa before bed, and take turns reading a book to each other. One person reads while the other massages their feet, and then we switch. It is wonderful!

So far, I seem to be sleeping slightly (but again, not remarkably) better. This might also be due to the caffeine thing.

3. Waking up a half-hour later. This was a risky experiment but it has been paying off the most, so far. I normally wake up at 6am and leave the apartment by 7. Usually, I arrive to work with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare, depending on traffic. Personally, I find the thought of waking up before the sun disgusting and appalling and I can not believe that any human would do it voluntarily. Stupid society. Out of desperation and anger, I decided to draw a line in the sand. I had no idea how I would hustle fast enough to get out the door on time, but I was done waking up at 6.

I decided to set my alarm for 6:30 and see what happened. Turns out, I just do everything faster. It is a bit of a rush and I end up leaving closer to 7:10 now, but I have not been late yet (it would be okay if I was but I take it as a matter of pride to always be where I agree to be when I agree to be there). Oddly enough, I also wake up before the alarm goes off.

This is the most dramatic of the experiments so far, in both action and results. Just waking up on my own 10 or 15 minutes later than when my alarm was set makes a HUGE difference in how I feel for the rest of the day. Less “fogginess”, less anger, less pouting, more energy, more efficiency (I love efficiency!), and no real loss of time. It’s crazy.

 

So there you are. Quick update on some of my current little life experiments. What are you trying, or what can you  try, to keep yourself in the mindset of living an experimental life?

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10 Moving Decisions I Hope Are Smart

Life is best when you court adventure and learning together.

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Moving from Grand Rapids to Tampa is a big change, but because Nicole and I value living an experimental life, we are also taking advantage of the experience to try a few crazy things. I am not sure if it will all work out for the best, but we will definitely learn from our little experiments and be able to apply the lessons to other areas of our lives.

A couple of the decisions listed we already know worked out well (or did not work out well) but I included them because we had no idea if they would when we tried them. So, here are 10 decisions we made before moving across the country that we hope turn out to be smart decisions.

1.  Get a local address. This was definitely risky. We sent Nicole down there with six months of savings. She found a roommate who was willing to rent half an apartment on a month-to-month basis. Although all signs pointed to her being a good roommate, we did not know until Nicole actually arrived there. However, within two weeks of job searching with a local address, Nicole landed a great job.

2. Leave (almost) everything behind. Because we try to live simply, we do not own a lot of furniture, trinkets, or items full of sentimental value. Nonetheless, when we did the math on the cost to move all of our stuff, it was nearly the same or more than it would be to buy everything again. So we fit what we could in her car and mine and nearly everything else is being given away or tossed out.

3.  Buy all new stuff. Most of our furniture was nice looking but relatively cheap, Ikea-style stuff. The cost of replacing most of it is the less than the cost to take it all. The best part, though, is we do not need to replace all of it.

4.  Replace only what you miss. Of course, we do not have to buy one-for-one replacements for every item we leave behind. We might end up actually saving considerable money by only replacing what it turns out we really need or miss.

5.  You mail instead of U-Haul. What I can not fit in my car, I am shipping to us via UPS, FedEx, or postal mail. I am taking the heaviest stuff in my car and the light stuff will probably arrive a day or two after I do (about 10 boxes of varying sizes total). Even if the shipping costs $500 ($50 per box and most will cost less than that) it will still be a significant savings over moving everything (which ranged from $3,000 to $4,500)!

6. Taking my cat. Rainee, my one-eyed furry friend who I have taken care of for roughly 14 years now, hates cars. I mean, like, REALLY hates cars. She is terrified to leave our apartment and usually releases all of her bodily fluids and solids on me when I attempt to take her to the vet (she is even worse if I put her in a carrier). I am choosing to take her with me, not sedated, in the car. I could ship her, but she would not have the comfort of my presence, which is at least some comfort to her. I could give her away but we have been companions for too long and she is my responsibility (plus, she is really cute… sometimes). So we are just going to tough it out and I have no doubt it will build character for both of us.

7.  Donation over profit. We are giving nearly everything we own away, not selling it. I am ambivalent toward most charities so this is not an altruistic decision for me. I am happy, though, to offer something that was of value to me, to someone else in hopes they will find value in it, too. The other reason is simply because I hope it will expedite the move. I do not want to spend days watching eBay bidding or waiting for people to show up and browse my life’s belongings.

8.  Renting a luxury apartment. In our new home city, we are choosing to pay double the rent we are paying in Grand Rapids. This means, of course, less going out and being a little more budget conscious but (and I know this sounds cheesy) our favorite place is with each other, curled up in bed or enjoying a nice walk. It makes more sense to have more luxury at home and less outside of it.

9.  Upgrading everything new. As I mentioned, we do not have to replace everything we leave behind. That means we will need fewer things so we might be willing to spend a little more for better, fewer things. The idea, for us, is to have more space and fewer things, but the things we will have will be stuff we really want, not just stuff to fill the space for now.

10.  Living closer to work. We chose our new city strategically. We know the traffic in Tampa is ten times worse than traffic in Grand Rapids. We deliberated quite a bit over whether it would be better to live closer to the things we love to do (like the beach), or closer to where we go the most (like work), or closer to where we shop the most (wherever we can find a great vegan selection). In the end, we leaned toward being closer to Nicole’s work (because she landed a job first) but still within 20-30 minutes of everything else we think we will love.

 

So there you have it. If you are considering moving, maybe that list will help you. If not, I think there is still value in some of those decisions. I’ll let you know in future posts what panned out and what ended up being a bad idea.

 

Today’s Lesson: You can’t know the future but you can certainly plan for having one. Might as well set it up to be a great one!

 

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4 Ways To Live Better: Aren’t You Curious?

This week, there is a theme: my 5 favorite tips that help me live better. I hope one of these tips help you live better, too…

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I have covered the importance of eating more plantsbeing active, and having great integrity.  There is no disputing the myriad benefits of a plant-based lifestyle for your health, the environment, and kindness to other animals. Eating vegan helps your body run more efficiently, being active helps the machine of your body continue running, and having great integrity (keeping your word, even to yourself) ensures the other habits will stick and helps you be someone others look up to. Figuring out 5 ways to live better was not something that happened by accident for me, which brings us to today’s post.

4. Be Curious. Living an experimental life is important to me. Having profound curiosity about why things work and how is, I think, at the core of all great discoveries. It is embracing an ever-evolving love of wonder. I have learned more about myself and the world by wondering about and experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and physical actions than I could ever hope to learn from four years of academia followed by forty years of sedentary thinking and living.

If anything, I have learned to be cautious of my assumptions (like, “the only way to learn to be good at something is to pursue a degree”). There are some things that are socially trained into us that are not always good or even factual. Any neuroscientist, for example, will tell you that you clearly and obviously use close to 100% of your brain, though many people believe we only use 10% of our brain. We have read it in popular culture, there are movies about it, the myth is so pervasive I just assumed it was true for most of my life. However, giving it even the slightest test of logic makes the myth crumble… No active part of our body only uses 10% of itself. It’s ludicrous. It would be like using our ten fingers the way we do now… but having 100 fingers. How could the body possibly operate with that much inefficiency?

Being weary of assumptions is at the core of curiosity. I assumed, for example, I needed a lot of sleep, so I experimented with my sleep patterns for a year. Growing up in a split-religion home, I became curious about theism, so I attended a different church every week for more than a year and read both the Bible and the Qur’an. I was curious about my diet so I learned about being vegan and food production, and then I tried going vegan… three times. It finally stuck but of course, it required three different experiments to figure out what worked for me.

I can not help but wonder about everything, including people, which is why I share about what I have learned regarding leadership on my blog. Some things, like leadership, are a life-long curiosity experiment. I am always learning, adapting, and trying new things to be a better, more effective leader. I do not know if anyone will ever figure out all there is to know about leadership (you can tell by seeing how many books are written about leadership each year). I will likely experiment and be curious about leading throughout the rest of my life.

I have described three elements of curiosity: embracing wonder, being cautious of assumptions, and creating experiments. Experiment with these three elements of curiosity rather than just assume I know what I am talking about and see what wonders you can find.

 

Today’s Lesson: Being curious leads to discovery, keeps life interesting, and fights off stagnation. Ask questions about everything. Try new things, including new thoughts and ideas (you don’t have to stick with them–try them on and see if they stick with you), and most of all, live an experimental life. It’s just more fun.

 

 

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Daylight Savings Time Must Die!

What would the world be like without Daylight Savings Time? Where did it come from and why do we continue the tradition? What if you could run on your own time instead of everybody else’s? (The original version of this post was published on the GoROWE website, where my friends Cali and Jody are changing the way the world works. You should check them out.)

This is a thought experiment.

I need to establish the context of the experiment before we get to the fun part, so here is a brief (but I think fascinating) history lesson about Time…

Rail Time or “-ish” Time?

Prior to 1883, people had a different relationship to Time than we do today. You could walk into a Jeweler’s Shop, for example, and ask the time. The Jeweler might have said, “It’s 2:30.” You could then cross the street to the bank and the Banker may have looked at his watch and said, “It’s 1:45 on the dot.” Then you could go next door, right away, to the Grocer and ask the time. The Grocer may have said, “Just turned 2:00.”

The Jeweler, Banker, and Grocer would all have been correct. Of course, that would seem odd today, but it was normal and not even inconvenient in 1883.

2:30-ish was good enough for most people, but after 1883, everything changed.

What happened that made people finally agree on what time it really was? Why were they so misaligned before 1883?

The Railroad happened.

Before the rail system, towns were not connected in any way that required synchronization. Time was arbitrary because people in Ohio, for example, did not need to be in sync with people from Pennsylvania. Even towns a couple of miles from each other often lived in different time zones. Most people and towns set their watch by the sun’s location in the sky. For example, when the sun was at the highest point in the sky during the day, everyone knew it was “noon”.

Depending how good your eyesight was or how well-made your town’s sun-dial was, “noon” could be anywhere between 12:00pm and 1:00pm. A town 400 miles away would have a different “noon” than your town’s noon. It did not really matter, though, because no one was on so tight a schedule that minutes counted so much as hours.

When railroads began connecting towns, however, time differences became a tremendous source of irritation for engineers. If an engineer was to leave Dayton, Ohio at “noon”, how would he know when to leave? The Jeweler would have showed up a half-hour late, the Banker 15 minutes early, and the Grocer might have just made it. Each passenger in each town was using their own approximate measurement of time.

The rails worked to create a unifying effect. Eventually (but with much resistance) people began setting their watches to “rail time”. In 1883, the railroads adopted five standard time zones to replace the multitude of local times. People reluctantly accepted “railroad time”, even though it meant “noon” was not quite when the sun was at its apex in the sky in many locales.

The Fun Part

That was the context. Here is the thought experiment:

Look forward 20 years and ask, what if work was no longer measured by where you are between the hours of such and such, Monday through Friday, but instead was only a measure of what you accomplish against your goals? Thanks to the internet, smartphones, tablets, and other technology, the world has become smaller. Businesses can reach across borders faster than the eye can blink. Our economy no longer has to be broken into time zones to facilitate stock exchange trading hours because the economy is always running. Society is global, always on, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

Measuring time is an arbitrary and abstract concept for most of us. Time seems to have a unique ability to expand and contract. Have you experienced an hour “fly by” when you are engaged in something meaningful or fun? Does the day “crawl” by when you are stuck doing grueling, mindless tasks that bore you?

How might our perception of Life transform if our perception of Time transformed? Would we return to a relaxed way of being, where “-ish” Time is good enough? Would we go back to telling our children to “be home before dark” or “when the street lights come on” instead of feeling forced to track them via GPS and bring them home like fugitives?

Consider this an experiment in mindfulness and vision.

How would you meet your friends to catch a movie? Would it matter if they were a half-hour late? Would you care, if you felt like you had “all the Time in the world”? Would it even bother you if the movie started late, if you were not always living on a schedule? How might a leisurely meal be, if each one stretched to two-hours of laughter and conversation?

What would it be like to never feel stuck in rush hour traffic, angry with how much “time” it takes to get home, or to work, because people are coming and going when they want instead of clogging up highways at the same times every day?

In other words, what if, after we throw our traditional, centuries-old concept of “Work” out the window, we also throw our traditional, centuries-old concept of “Time Management” out the window with it? What if we never had to worry about “springing forward” or “falling back” because Daylight Savings Time is unnecessary? Winter days have a little more sun and Summer days don’t make you feel like you are going to bed when the night has just begun…

I think it is an interesting idea.

Why don’t you think about that, and then get back to me about noon-ish?

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Living An Experimental Life

I’m fond of saying something I swiped from one of my favorite thought leaders, Seth Godin: “Fail big or fail often”. I tell my team members I don’t care which one they choose, but if they are not failing then they are not pushing themselves hard enough to find their limits. They are only staying in their comfort zone and not risking anything personally or professionally to really find out who they are. Of course, I give them a safe space to fail and provide air cover when needed.

It is an important distinction, failing by reaching out of your comfort zone to find your limits, but today I want to tweak that a little. Obviously, failing, by definition, has negative connotations. I am not trying to contribute to a philosophy of failure for the sake of failure (but using the word “fail” to illustrate what success looks like does make a dramatic talking point).

Instead, what I want you to consider is embracing a life of experimenting. When we experiment, we are not playing a pass/fail game. We are trying something new, reviewing the results, and either re-assessing and trying again, or adopting, tweaking, and moving forward.

When I realized this, I realized how much I have already embraced this idea and how much of my life revolves around experiments. I think experiments are important because they help define who we are. They help us learn what we are capable of and drive us to improve. I invite you to consider what you can experiment with in your life.

Here are many (but certainly not all) of the life experiments I have tried. Some of these I continue to practice. Some I have discarded. Some I am still tweaking and practicing. I encourage you to try some of these or create your own:

 

  • Being vegan. I did not start animal-free and I failed at maintaining a vegan diet many times before I got it (mostly) right.
  • Waterless showering. I tried using dry shampoo and some weird astronaut soap for a week. I made it three days…
  • Fasting one day a week.
  • Eating food with absolutely no added spices for three months.
  • Turning my whole wardrobe into a two color palette (black and gray) that I could simply mix and match without giving thought to what I was going to wear each day.
  • Only shopping at local merchants, no big box stores. This was a very worthwhile one. Highly recommend.

A full year of sleep experiments, including:

  • Going to bed one minute later and waking up one minute earlier every day until it affected me mentally and physically (turns out I only need about 4 hours sleep to function normally).
  • Sleeping on the floor with no pillows.
  • Following a Circadian rhythm (sleeping about 4 hours during the day and about 4 hours at night).
  • Taking a three-week vacation and logging how much sleep I naturally provided myself when I removed all time cues. I started a stopwatch when I went to bed and stopped it when I woke up to track how many hours I slept and I removed all clocks and watches from the house, plus moved my bed into the walk-in closet so I could not use the sun as a visual time cue. Incidentally, when I am left to my schedule and free to go to bed and wake up when I please, I average about 5 hours of sleep per night (and go to bed somewhere around 3:00am) and wake up completely rested (around 8:00am).

 

…and much, much more. I continue to experiment with my body, with time management, even with my blog (I recently turned off commenting and date-stamping posts and started focusing on publishing to my public profile, for example). I love experiments and living an experimental life.

 

So today’s lesson is easy: learn about yourself or the world by trying new things, considering the results, and trying again or trying something entirely different. The idea is to learn. I hope you come up with some  great experiments of your own. Feel free to share about your experiences or ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.

Have fun experimenting!

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Today’s Lesson: If You Blog Them, They Will Come [140824]

I just dug into my blog analytics (this tells me anonymous information about my blog, such as traffic, click patterns, unique visitors, etc.) and I thought you might like to know some fun facts about our little “lesson-per-day” experiment so far.

There are a few lessons in these statistics, too. One that really stands out is blogging does not have to be complicated. I have not made the time to learn all the ins and outs of building a social empire. I don’t know very much about SEO; I don’t use a fancy theme-builder program; I don’t leverage popular graphic design elements or experiment with click-through traffic, etc. I just try to write honest, good content every day with minimal spelling errors. To be honest, I do not have time for much else between my full-time job, freelance consulting, other writing/content projects, and at least a semi-social life! The blog is just for fun. That being said, here are some statistics I found surprising.

So far this month:

  • 51.4% of the visitors to are returning visitors (48.6% are new visitors–thanks for sharing! I have no idea how the word gets out other than the sharing I see from friends on FaceBook, but obviously, it’s getting out–so thanks!).
  • The average number of posts read per session is 4!
  • The bounce rate (number of people who visit the blog and leave without clicking on any other post) is only 4%–wow! 96% of people stick around to check out another post. Very humbling and inspiring.
  • I picked up 198 new users so far this month.
  • Here’s a fun one… I have no idea why, but I am building quite the audience in Brazil–a full 6.87% of subscribers come from there. Thank you, Brazil! A surprising number of readers have visited from Italy (about 2%), Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, and Russia (about 1% each), and, I had 1 visitor from Australia. Too funny, but thanks for visiting!
  • My most popular post over the last month… Why Your Company Is Broken (from July 21,st 2014)
  • My most popular post of all time… Source And Motive: Irena Sendler and the Nobel Peace Prize (from September 11, 2010)

I could add more bullet points all day. There is so much analytics information and so many ways to parse it, I imagine for a major company, studying data analytics could be somebody’s full-time job.

The point is, thanks for reading and sharing!


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Today The Lesson I Learned Is… It’s All Personal! (But Don’t Take It Personally) (140722)

“Today the lesson I learned is…” has been an interesting ongoing experiment (over 50 posts now!). It is often challenging to come up with a new lesson; sometimes I really have to dig to find out what I learned today!

I have some loose rules. Whatever I post has to be relevant to the day. I really do come up with one every day (although I allow myself to run a day or two ahead just in case, so the post from “today” is usually a lesson learned within the last 24 to 36 hours).

After I write my post, I do a quick re-read and edit one time, so any mistakes I miss are here in their shining glory. This is me, imperfections and all. The post has to be something that is not just a “fun-fact” I learned, but an actual life lesson or insight I can apply to make myself a little better, smarter, or wiser. Finally, the lesson has to be widely applicable; for the most part I try to find a lesson *I* learned that *WE* can learn from. That means, I generally avoid hot topics like politics, religion, and sex unless specifically asked a question or provoked to respond to something (this is also my social media guidance; I wish more of us adopted that idea, but I digress).

Even though, this is a blog, the content is still personal to me and I sometimes forget I am broadcasting whatever I thought about today to anyone who clicks the link.

This week, I was reminded of that twice. Once from my mom, who commented on post 140720 (by the way those numbers are the date: yy/mm/dd). This has to be my favorite comment of all time, of course; I felt immediately embarrassed and proud that my mom reads my blog!. The second was from my friend and peer, Chris (last name withheld since I didn’t ask permission), who shared the blog with his friends and let me know he liked it.

I am excited that lots of people are sharing the content and the blog has been picking up steam on LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, and other places–and I’m sure some of my former blog followers have tagged along as well, from other countries. It’s humbling and exciting to watch it pick up again with my new theme and daily focus.

So… thanks a bunch. I really appreciate it, and the lesson today is that really getting personal but not taking criticism or lack of interest personally turns out to be a decent strategy to live, love, lead… and learn!

Here’s to the next 50, 500, or 5,000 posts!

(Hat Tip to Chris “now if you only did one on me every day, that’s a powerful read”–ha ha– careful what you wish for! I can find a lesson in anything!)

 

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